Rain welcomed November’s Native American Heritage Month opening ceremony Thursday, but this didn’t deter attendees.
The event was moved from NDSU’s Grandmother Earth’s Gifts of Life Garden to the Arikara room of the Memorial Union.
Being indoors eliminated sage-burning from the ceremony, but the ceremony’s purpose still floated among the crowd.
“As I prayed, smoke swirled. I prayed for each and every one of you to have a good experience today,” Michael Gabbard of Delaware said during the ceremony’s opening speech.
In his speech, Gabbard emphasized the importance of being present during Native American Heritage Month.
“A lot has happened to get us here today, but we still have a fight going on,” Gabbard said.
During the opening ceremony, various speakers told stories or their tribal community and what is being done to improve the situation for Native Americans.
Petra Reyna One Hawk of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe was the first speaker to bring forward a story. Reyna received a bachelor’s degree in biology from University of North Dakota and later attended medical school. The goal she held with her education was to be a healer and to help people on their healing journey.
“We have talents that are given to us by the Creator so that we may share them with the people, for the common good,“ Reyna said.
Reyna has been involved with research at the Standing Rock reservation, where she grew up. She found no children were fluent in the native language. She is a part of a program called Design Team that is reconstructing ways to teach the language in school.
“Our number one goal is for our language to survive. Language is a living being spirit. In order to keep it alive we need to speak it,” Reyna said.
Gabe Brien of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa is a civil engineering major at NDSU who also spoke about why heritage is important, and about his experience as a member of his tribe who is not fully native.
“Everyone has heritage. The biggest takeaway we can have is knowing and understanding who we are and working together to better understand who we are,” Brien said.
Upcoming events for Native American Heritage Month include several events hosted at the Memorial Union.
For a full list of events, visit NDSU’s Office of Multicultural Programs office in Memorial Union.